The Midlands Roots Explosion Volume One
Reggae Archive Records
This summer sees the release of an early contender for roots compilation of the year. Midland Roots Explosion is a selection of tracks from English reggae bands working the Midlands circuit in the late 70’s. The headliners for this collection are Steel Pulse, whose album Handsworth Revolution is possibly the best reggae album to come from these shores. Along with UB40, Capital Letters, 2 Tone and more, they contributed to making the Midlands one of the most vibrant reggae scenes in the UK.
The compilation kicks off in style with Steel Pulse’s first single, Kibudu-Mansatta-Abuku, also included for completion is the dub B-side of that release. Steel Pulse have never shied away from a political and social message and this 1976 track sets out their career stall early. A call to arms, taking in the themes of loss of identity, lack of opportunity and lack of freedom for black kids in inner city Britain.
The ‘lack of opportunities’ theme runs like a thread through the entire album. Probably unsurprising, as anyone who grew up in 70’s and 80’s England can empathise with the inequalities that plagued society. England did at times feel a bankrupt run down place, with political unrest, strikes and a very grey outlook. Steel Pulse and the other bands featured helped give a voice to the marginalised.
This album is far more than just Steel Pulse though, the quality runs deep and stand out tracks like Man From the Hills – Redemption Day, (any of you who are fans of Joe Higgs will recognise his vocal influence in this song) and Unite Handsworth, (which sees Benjamin Zephaniah’s dub poetry coming to the forefront) vie for attention.
Probably the most surprising track is Musical Youth’s Political, which is a hard edged message to politicians calling for opportunities. The musicianship is very strong and shows they were far more than their Pass the Dutchie hit.
I love a compilation that saves its best track for last, that shows real confidence in the content! Zephaniah’s Free Man is a soft, soulful lament to freedom. With a Mittooesq hook and lovely vocals, this track has been on heavy rotation on my deck.
‘All killer no filler’ here, this collection may even trump the quality Reggae Archives Bristol compilations. You do wonder what gems they will next unearth. I can’t wait and I am sure when you hear this album you will want more as well.
The album will be available on 22 June 2015 on 2xLP (Deluxe Gatefold Sleeve), CD and Digital Download direct from reggaearchiverecords.com or from the usual outlets.
1. Kibudu-Mansatta-Abuku – Steel Pulse
2. Mansatta (Instrumental) – Steel Pulse
3. Redemption Day – Man From The Hills
4. Blood Fi Dem – Eclipse
5. Political – Musical Youth
6. Ancestors Calling – Sceptre
7. Unite Handsworth – Benjamin Zephaniah
8. Rome – Oneness
9. In the Name of Jah – Black Symbol
10. Fa-Ward – Groundation
11. Instruments – Mystic Foundation
12. Slow Down – Iganda
13. I Will Never – Capital Letters
14. Mr. Workhard – Carnastoan
15. Free Man – Zephaniah